How to Deal with Difficult Relationships
- 2005 11 Oct
All of us at one time or another have had to deal with difficult relationships. Perhaps for you it has been with a family member. Or perhaps it has been with someone you thought was a friend. Or, even worse, the difficulty is with your spouse.
In Genesis, chapter 16, a story unfolds that provides us with God's insight and wisdom regarding how to deal with a difficult relationship. It is the story of Sarah, Abraham's wife, and her maid, Hagar.
We pick up the story after Sarah decides she will never conceive. And she tells Abraham to sleep with Hagar in order to produce a child. Abraham complies and Hagar becomes pregnant. But Hagar develops an attitude and begins to make Sarah's life miserable.
So Sarah goes to Abraham and complains ... as a result, things don't turn out well for Hagar - yet in this story we find some powerful lessons in how to handle difficult relationships.
6 So Abram said to Sarai, "Indeed your maid is in your hand; do to her as you please." And when Sarai dealt harshly with her, she fled from her presence.
7 Now the Angel of the LORD found her by a spring of water in the wilderness, by the spring on the way to Shur.
8 And He said, "Hagar, Sarai's maid, where have you come from, and where are you going?" She said, "I am fleeing from the presence of my mistress Sarai."
9 The Angel of the LORD said to her, "Return to your mistress, and submit yourself under her hand."
Sarah's harsh treatment of Hagar drives Hagar away, and that's when God shows up. He asks a profound, two-fold question ... "Where have you come from, and where are you going?" Questions from which you and I can learn.
Now the first part of that question, "Where have you come from?" suggests that Hagar ought to consider what she was leaving. Implied in this question is God saying,
"I know you're hurt, you're upset, and maybe you're confused. You're angry. But have you really considered what you might be forfeiting if you follow through on this decision? You are going to be forfeiting:
A husband that knows God (not too common in those days)
A family who is being taught in the way of the Lord.
Great prosperity (because Abraham is very wealthy)
Safety, and a place where your needs are met.
A place where you know your child is going to be cared for."
What can you and I learn from the first half of this question? To begin with, it is never wise to make major decisions when you're upset emotionally or when you've been hurt. How many of us have made a decision or made a call when the air was emotionally charged...and it just led to something bad? I can tell you, I've been guilty of that!
Or, how many of us have said something when we were angry or hurt, and the moment the words escaped our lips we wished we could have taken them back?
The principle is to think twice before you speak once. And don't be rash to make an important decision, especially when you're upset.
The Scripture says in Proverbs 19:2, "He sins who hastens with his feet." Yet, quite often, people make rash decisions. People will make a decision to leave a church, to leave a job, to even leave a marriage, and they haven't properly considered what they would be forfeiting in that decision.
Through the years I've heard people say many times, whether they are leaving a church, a job, a relationship, a marriage, "Well, the Lord has just released me." Very rarely have I believed them when I've heard those words. It is sometimes just easier to blame things on God than to deal with issues that need to be resolved.
Which brings us to the second half of the Lord's question to Hagar: "Where are you going?" I think God is asking her, "Are you going out of the frying pan into the fire?"
Hagar was on the way to Shur. If you look on a map, she is making a beeline back for Egypt, back for her home. She was going back to a land that, at this point in time, had no knowledge of the God of Abraham ... back to a land full of pagan worship and idolatry.
She would have to go through a wilderness that, according to Deuteronomy 8:15, is a land that is thirsty... where there is no water. A land full of fiery serpents and scorpions.
Where will rash, emotionally-charged decisions take us? And what are we forfeiting? What are we getting ourselves into? Are we heading for a wilderness? Is divorce really the answer? Or is it just a temporary release from some of the pressure?
Is your decision ultimately going to make things harder or make things worse?
If you cut and run from wherever you are right now, no matter how distressed you may feel, you need to ask yourself: Is this wise? Are there other options? I think those are good questions. Where have you come from? And where are you going?
Bayless Conley pastors Cottonwood Christian Center, a thriving church located in Orange County, California. His television program, Answers with Bayless Conley, airs on television in over 100 nations worldwide.Visit his Web site at www.answersbc.org. To order your copy of the "How to Pray" booklet, visit www.oneplace.com